Defending champion and top seed UCLA returned to the ITA Women's Indoor Final with a 4-1 win over No. 4 Georgia Sunday afternoon, while No. 6 seed North Carolina blew by second seed Duke 4-0 Sunday evening to reach their first Indoor final since 2010.
UCLA reached the final in 2012 with four freshmen; this year the Bruins have two freshmen starting, and coach Stella Sampras Webster has every confidence that her new additions can handle their first national final on Monday.
"I have to say that our freshmen and our sophomores have a ton of experience," said Sampras Webster, whose team reached the NCAA team championship final last May. "They were great juniors. They know how to play and they know to play in big moments, so give all the credit to them."
The two Bruin freshmen--Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips---earned the doubles point for UCLA, which was, as so many of the doubles points were all weekend, decided in a tiebreaker. Georgia's No.1 team of Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia won 8-4 at No. 1 over UCLA's Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton, and UCLA's No. 2 team of Courtney Dolehide and Pam Montez defeated Georgia's Maho Kowase and Lilly Kimbell 8-5. When the Bruins took that court, Harrison and McPhillips were at 3-3 in the tiebreaker with Georgia's Lauren Herring and Mia King.
McPhillips and Harrison, who was playing in place of Chanelle Van Nguyen, won the next three points to earn a 6-3 lead and three match points, but King hit two winners to save two match points, and Herring put away a forehand volley to save the third. King missed a swinging volley to give UCLA a fourth match point, and this time it was McPhillips who took the initiative, poaching and putting away the volley winner to give UCLA a 1-0 lead.
In the singles, Georgia started off well, taking early leads on most courts, but UCLA fought back. Harrison was down 4-1 to King in the first set at No. 5, but won five straight games to take the lead, while Montez was down 3-0 to Fuller at line 3 before winning four straight games.
Georgia got first sets from Kowase at No.2, who blanked McPhillips 6-0, and Garcia at No. 4, who took the opening set over Van Nguyen 6-1. With Dolehide taking the first set from Makenzie Craft at line 6 and Anderson earning the first set from Herring at 1, Georgia needed a couple of matches to turn around, but only Herring could force a third, and she was matched by McPhillips, who overcame her horrendous start to take the second set from Kowase.
Sampras Webster made her way over to McPhillips' court after she had lost the first six games.
"I told her she needed to be a little patient, and not to panic, make some more balls," said Sampras Webster. "The girl wasn't winning the match, Kyle was losing the match. It was just a matter of her developing the points a little bit longer and she did a better job that second set. She's a calm player who didn't seem to be panicking, so it was easy to talk to her."
Harrison, who had clinched the Bruins quarterfinal win over Miami on Saturday, closed out King 6-4, 6-0, winning the last 11 games of the match, to give UCLA a 2-0 lead, and Dolehide followed with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Craft to make it 3-0.
Herring had earned a split with Anderson at 1, but Fuller was down 4-1 in the second set to Montez at 3. Garcia was still fighting to close down Van Nguyen to get Georgia on the board, but Fuller went down two match points serving to Montez at 3-5. Fuller saved one with a backhand winner, and that gave Garcia the opportunity to win her match point for a 6-1, 6-4 victory, but Fuller double faulted at 30-40 to give Montez and the Bruins their place in the final.
Montez, a senior from Mexico who grew up in Southern California, wasn't concerned that she got off to such a slow start.
"Typically I'm a pretty slow starter, because my game's all about moving," said Montez. "When I'm cold, I just wasn't getting to the ball. I just kept at it, and eventually it started working."
Montez said she was excited to be back in the final.
"We weren't sure we could do it again," Montez said. "But here we are, and hopefully it's a repeat of last year."
Sampras Webster says she has learned something about her team.
"Our players just know how to win," she said. "They are the ones dealing with all the pressure. I have a great team, they've come together and shown the coaching staff that they're fighters and they want it."
UCLA 4, Georgia 1
1. #6 Robin Anderson (UCLA) vs. #8 Lauren Herring (UGA) 6-3, 4-6, 3-1, unfinished
2. #47 Kyle McPhillips (UCLA) vs. #18 Maho Kowase (UGA) 0-6, 6-3, 3-2, unfinished
3. #96 Pamela Montez (UCLA) def. #54 Kate Fuller (UGA) 6-4, 6-3
4. Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. Chanelle Van Nguyen (UCLA) 6-1, 6-4
5. Catherine Harrison (UCLA) def. Mia King (UGA) 6-4, 6-0
6. Courtney Dolehide (UCLA) def. Makenzie Craft (UGA) 6-3, 6-0
1. Kate Fuller/Silvia Garcia (UGA) def. #16 Robin Anderson/Skylar Morton (UCLA) 8-4
2. Courtney Dolehide/Pamela Montez (UCLA) def. #22 Lilly Kimbell/Maho Kowase (UGA) 8-5
3. Kyle McPhillips/Catherine Harrison (UCLA) def. Lauren Herring/Mia King (UGA) 8-7(6)
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (5,6,4,3)
In the late afternoon match on the stadium courts of the Boar's Head Sports Club, No. 6 seed North Carolina continued its outstanding play, defeating ACC rival Duke 4-0 to get its first win over the Blue Devils since 2010.
Disappointed in their doubles performance in their dramatic 4-3 win over No. 3 seed Southern Cal Saturday night, coach Brian Kalbas' team came out motivated against No. 2 seed and 2012 finalist Duke.
"We tried to improve on our performance last night and it was night and day for us," said Kalbas. "We came out with a lot of intensity and effort and execution and I think we were trying to set the tone for the match. We did a really good job, where yesterday we didn't quite do that."
At No. 3 doubles, Tar Heels Tessa Lyons and Lauren McHale never let Hanna Mar and Monica Turewicz into the match and finished it efficiently by an 8-2 score. North Carolina's No. 2 team of Gina Suarez-Malaguti and Zoe De Bruycker had a 6-3 lead over Duke's Marianne Jodoin and Annie Mulholland when the match on court 3 finished, and they didn't falter down the stretch, winning the last two games to take it 8-3. At No. 1 doubles, Duke's Mary Clayton and Ester Goldfeld down 4-7 to Ashley Dai and Whitney Kay when the match was abandoned.
North Carolina managed to maintain its momentum in the singles, picking up four first sets in singles to Duke's two.
McHale and Kay, who were the last two players off the court in Saturday night's 4-3 win over USC, were the first two to move to sideline cheering duties Sunday.
McHale defeated Mulholland 6-2, 6-2, and Kay downed Goldfeld 6-4, 7-5 despite a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct when serving for the match at 5-3, given for her third overrule. Kay didn't let it affect her for more than a few moments however, and she broke Goldfeld at 5-6 to make it 3-0.
Duke looked to be on the verge of reversing the momentum when Mar took an early lead in the second set against Suarez-Malaguti at line 1 after dropping the first set, and Turewicz went up 4-1 over Caroline Price after winning the first set. With Jodoin in control over Dai on court 6, Duke had hope there as well. Turewicz couldn't finish before both De Bruycker and Suarez-Malaguti got in position to close out their matches, with De Bruycker leading Mary Clayton 6-4, 5-2 on court 2, and Suarez-Malaguti taking five of six games from Mar to go up 5-3 on court 1.
It was a race between the two seniors to see who would convert the match point, and De Bruycker won it, taking a 40-0 lead and closing out Clayton 6-2, 6-2.
"We've played each other so many times, I kind of knew what to expect going into it," said De Bruycker. "I knew she was going to fight, no matter what the score was, and you can never get too relaxed with her, because if she's on, she can just hit winners every shot."
De Bruycker was a freshman on the unseeded 2010 team that beat top seed Duke 4-3 in the semifinals of the Team Indoor, but she sees different circumstances this year.
"Three years ago we had a great tournament, and had such a good win in the semis, and we kind of had a letdown in the finals," DeBruycker said of the 4-2 loss to Northwestern. "I think we'll definitely use that experience this year. We've already had two great wins, two upsets this tournament, but we're not satisfied just getting to the finals. We really want to win this."
Kalbas knows his team will be an underdog for the third straight time Monday.
"UCLA's obviously the defending champion, so we'll have a big test on our hands," said Kalbas, in his tenth season at North Carolina. "All the pressure is going to be on them. We're excited to get to the finals and move on to see what we can do. It's a huge deal for us to get to a national championship final."
North Carolina 4, Duke 0
1. #10 Hanna Mar (DUKE) vs. #11 Gina Suarez-Malaguti (NC) 2-6, 3-5, unfinished
2. #28 Zoe De Bruycker (NC) def. #53 Mary Clayton (DUKE) 6-4, 6-2
3. #21 Whitney Kay (NC) def. #40 Ester Goldfeld (DUKE) 6-4, 7-5
4. #111 Lauren McHale (NC) def. Annie Mulholland (DUKE) 6-2, 6-2
5. Monica Turewicz (DUKE) vs. #36 Caroline Price (NC) 7-5, 5-4, unfinished
6. #63 Marianne Jodoin (DUKE) vs. #65 Ashley Dai (NC) 7-6(7), 3-0, unfinished
1. Mary Clayton/Ester Goldfeld (DUKE) vs. #8 Ashley Dai/Whitney Kay (NC) 4-7, unfinished
2. Gina Suarez-Malaguti/Zoe De Bruycker (NC) def. Marianne Jodoin/Annie Mulholland (DUKE) 8-3
3. #51 Tessa Lyons/Lauren McHale (NC) def. Hanna Mar/Monica Turewicz (DUKE) 8-2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (4,3,2)